Recovering addict works to break cycle

Published 12:24 am Saturday, September 25, 2010

Samantha Barfield looked like she had it all — good grades, good family and plans to become a pharmacist.

But a downward spiral into prescription drug addiction nearly took everything away.

She is proof that drug addiction can happen to anyone.

But with two clean years behind her and a new purpose working with other recovering addicts, Barfield is also proof of redemption.

“I’ve seen so many things that I know only God could do,” she said.

How it started

Barfield grew up in Pace, Fla., where she played sports in high school and took dual enrollment classes to get a jump on her college education.

At 16, she had begun working in a pharmacy, and she knew that was the profession she wanted to pursue.

“My dream was to help other people,” she said.

At 20, Barfield moved to Gainesville for pharmacy school. College life began to take a toll; she started spending time with a different crowd of friends and began using drugs recreationally.

The course load in pharmacy school also began to weigh on Barfield; doctors prescribed Adderall to help her concentrate and Xanax to help her sleep.

But although those drugs were prescribed, Barfield “got in a vicious cycle of taking medication for anything I needed to do.”

“I didn’t deal with the underlying issues,” she said.

The situation grew worse when Barfield was injured in her last year of pharmacy school; a doctor prescribed opiates for the pain.

When the prescription ran out, Barfield looked for any way to get the drugs she needed.

“I was a full-blown addict,” she said.

By that time, Barfield had achieved the dream of graduating from pharmacy school — and that’s when her whole world came crashing down. She was arrested.

Getting help

In a jail cell, Barfield finally saw the truth about herself.

“I didn’t realize how far down I had gotten until I was in jail and had withdrawals,” she said.

Barfield’s family was devastated.

“It totally crushed them,” she said. “So many people looked up to me. I was one of the first people in my family to go to college.”

Barfield got help in a faith-based treatment center in Pace, where she began to see the life she wanted to live.

“I had been so miserable,” she said. Even though she was following her dream in pharmacy school, “it didn’t make me happy. I started seeking after God. I really started finding out who I was.”

Her family, so devastated by her addiction, began to see a change as Barfield got clean.

“I’m not the person I used to be,” she said, “and they see it. I didn’t like that person I was.”

With hindsight, Barfield can see how much she has changed.

Even her dream of becoming a pharmacist had clouded her vision.

“It was such a passion for me for so long, but it became unhealthy for me,” she said. “I neglected everything else.”

Barfield moved to the area a little over a year ago when Escambia County native Bo Bell brought his faith-based treatment center, New Beginnings, to Brewton.

She serves as the secretary for New Beginnings, acting as a liaison between the men’s and women’s facilities.

She still hopes to work in the pharmacy field one day, but for now she is enjoying the work of helping others work through their addictions.

And her relationship with her family has grown stronger because of what she has been through.

“My dad and I never got along,” she said. “There was a lot of anger built up. But it’s unbelievable how close we are now.”

Barfield’s family often joins her at New Beginnings and its new church, she said.

“They see the miracles that happen in people’s lives,” she said.

Helping others

The signs of addiction are clearer for both Barfield and her family with the benefit of hindsight. Barfield’s family told her that they had suspected something was wrong when she called asking for money repeatedly.

“They knew I was doing something, but they didn’t want to believe it,” she said.

Barfield’s circle of friends had changed, and she had also been missing classes. Then she stopped communicating with people she cared about.

“When I hit bottom, I prayed that God would take me,” she said. “I was so miserable.”

Barfield has advice for anyone who suspects addiction in a family member.

“If a family member sees signs of addiction, they should talk to someone who has been through an addiction before,” Barfield said. “It is so easy to want to trust and believe in someone.”

Above all, though, Barfield said she hopes family members will work to get help for loved ones.

“Don’t give up on them,” she said. “Don’t push them away. Talk to them and be that open communication for them.”

Barfield understands how someone could become addicted to prescription medications. And she knows that they are readily available, even for someone who does not have a prescription.

Barfield said today’s prescription drug takeback, sponsored by the Brewton Police Department, is a good idea.

“Teenagers today don’t have to go on the streets for drugs,” she said. “They can go in Grandma’s medicine cabinet.”

Anyone who is interested in New Beginnings can call the facility at 251-623-1030, Barfield said.

Being involved in the ministry has helped strengthen Barfield’s faith, she said.

“It’s a privilege to be part of it,” she said.

“God has changed me so much. I’m not the person I used to be.”